scfgm4 mcdavid breaks out

EDMONTON -- Wayne Gretzky’s statue is one of the first things you see when you approach the front of Rogers Place. The sculpture depicts the NHL’s all-time points leader hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head.

Connor McDavid knows it’s there. And most importantly, he knows how significant the man it portrays was and is to the franchise, the city and the sport.

So for the Edmonton Oilers captain to break one of The Great One’s all-time records is a pretty big deal, even if McDavid himself wants to downplay the accomplishment.

“It’s not lost on me what he means to the game,” McDavid said of Gretzky. “But it’s not the focus right now.”

No, what is for McDavid and his teammates is the chance to play another day, which they earned with an 8-1 victory against the Florida Panthers in Game 4 of the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final on Saturday.

The Oilers still face a daunting task ahead. They trail the Panthers 3-1 with the series shifting back to Florida for Game 5 on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN, TVAS, CBC). In order to win the Stanley Cup, the Oilers will have to win four consecutive games, a feat only accomplished in the Cup Final by the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.

For his part, McDavid cares little that it has only been done once in 82 years. Or about individual marks he might smash along the way.

But the fact that he surpassed Gretzky for the most assists in a single postseason with 32, thanks to a four-point game (one goal, three assists), showed his leadership skills on a night when his team’s season was on the brink.

Use all the cliches you like. Edmonton’s backs were against the wall. It was do or die. There was no tomorrow. Whatever the case, this much was certain: No. 97 wasn’t going to let his team’s season end this way.

He scored. He set up his teammates. He came to the aid of his teammates and took a couple of punches in the face for his efforts. Afterward, he exchanged high-fives with Shania Twain in the victorious Oilers dressing room.

Whatever it took. Whatever it takes.

“Just because of what was at stake, an elimination game in the Final, he just continues to impress everyone,” said Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch, who coached McDavid with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League. “Quite the night for him to set the record. We’re obviously very happy for him to be a part of that.

“But yeah, he just keeps on making plays, scoring goals, getting assists. A great performance. And at the right time.”

Now they need for him and his teammates to do it again, this time in Florida. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Will they now carry the momentum of scoring eight times with them on the road? For his part, McDavid downplayed the impact of the offensive explosion.

“It’s just one win, that’s all it is,” McDavid said. “It doesn't matter if you score eight or you score one, it's just one win.

"We've got to go to Florida, do a job and drag them back to Alberta."

The Panthers will do everything in their power to stop that from happening, including engaging in extracurricular activities to slow McDavid down.

They tried that Saturday during a scrum in the second period. When McDavid saw Panthers forwards Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk team up on Oilers forward Zach Hyman, he came to his teammate’s aid. Punches were exchanged.

“That’s not the game I want to play,” McDavid said. “I was just there to make sure no one was outnumbered and I thought Zach was getting doubled up.

“I was just trying to jump in there and do my part as a teammate.”

He did exactly that. And in the process, he chuckled wryly in the faces of Bennett and Tkachuk while they were trying to land uppercuts on him.

For Oilers forward Connor Brown, McDavid’s teammate in Erie, that says it all about the leader McDavid is.

“They want to feel like they’re the big, bad, tough team,” Brown said. “Well, we’re just as tough as them.

“Just because they’re taking undisciplined penalties and being idiots after the whistle, that doesn’t make you tough. Number 97 has the toughest guys in the League every night trying to hit him and coming after him. That’s toughness.

“Just look at them and laugh just like he did.”

The Oilers hope to do a lot more laughing Tuesday.